Chief executive contender John Tsang has said that his pledge to provide public housing accommodation to 60 per cent of the population is a long-term goal.
“Of course it will take some time to achieve,” he said. He was responding to questions from incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying after he asked Tsang to explain whether the authorities would need to suspend government land sales in order to achieve this goal.
Tsang said the 60 per cent target included all subsidised housing, public rental housing estates, the Home Ownership Scheme, and a housing scheme for “sandwich class” middle-income families.
“If we reach [the goal], I believe we will have better stability,” he said.
In 2015, public permanent housing – including rental housing and subsidised sale flats – encompassed 45.6 per cent of Hong Kong’s housing, whilst private permanent housing accounted for 53.9 per cent, according to the Housing Authority.
Tsang also said that the tax reforms including a progressive profits tax and negative income tax were not proposed in the past, as the current administration had proposed many welfare benefits.
“Welfare benefits are overlapping with many [aspects] of negative income tax,” he said, adding that he wished to use negative income taxes to reorganise the different kinds of benefits provided by the government.
Tsang made the comments after a closed door meeting with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest pro-Beijing party which has around 100 chief executive electors.
A negative income tax is a system whereby people earning under a certain amount will receive money from the government as opposed to paying taxes to the state.
Party chairwoman Starry Lee said its central committee will meet to decide on nomination preferences for the chief executive election.
Some core members of the party including vice-chairmen Brave Chan and Horace Cheung – also a lawmaker – have joined the campaign office of Carrie Lam, Tsang’s main rival in the race. The party’s lawmaker Leung Che-cheung also attended Lam’s election rally last week.
When asked about whether the party received instructions from the central government, she said: “it will be decided by the central committee, no one has made instructions.”
The nomination period for the small-circle chief executive race runs from February 14 to March 1. The main contenders include former chief secretary Lam, lawmaker Regina Ip, ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing and Tsang. The election takes place on March 26.